According to Ayurveda, healthy digestion is a cornerstone of good health. Efficient digestion nourishes the body and provides energy, while a sluggish heavy feeling in your stomach will make you dread your own existence. Unfortunately, many of us city dwellers suffer from digestion problems. Probiotics, antacids, heartburn pills, detox packs? every pharmacy and health food store has shelves upon shelves of digestive supplements.
When a patient goes to a health care provider trained in conventional allopathic medicine, the treatment options for digestive issues are typically medications, which serve to control symptoms, but do not treat the underlying cause.
The cause (Nidanam) of digestive disease lies in our actions. By indulging our sense of taste in an unhealthy manner we upset the balance of the bodily doshas. Vata is upset by cold, dry and light foods such as raw vegetables. Pitta is upset by warm, oily, light foods such as deep fried vegetables and Kapha is upset by cold, heavy, moist foods such as cold ice cream and yogurt. In addition, taking foods in an improper manner can be even more harmful than choosing inappropriate foods. Healthy food taken in the wrong way will still cause digestive disease.
The symptoms of poor digestion include excessive gas, constipation, diarrhea, burping, burning, vomiting, indigestion, bloating and pain. In various forms, Western medicine has given them names such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis and pancreatitis among many others. Through the eyes of Ayurveda, the practitioner comes to an understanding of the cause through examining one’s lifestyle. Faulty eating practices are the number one culprit, poor food choices and poor food combination are next in line. Together they make up the major causes of digestive disease.
Severe ulcers cause sufferers to actively avoid eating, drinking, talking and kissing, which can be awkward socially. Speech is painful resulting in a loss of clarity or enunciation - and sometimes spitting, which doesn't help. Sufferers often get worn down by the pain and become fatigued and depressed, and so I have been told, irritable too. No specific single cause has yet been isolated, though it seems they are not generally caused by infectious agents such as viruses or bacteria and are therefore not considered contagious.
Stomach acidity or hyperacidity conditions are a common problem. Ask the person sitting right beside you in a bus if he had experienced bouts of acidity attacks. Chances are great that he or she would answer you with a big YES. Why is this so? Our stomach produces acid to digest the food that we eat. This is a regular and natural process. Whenever we eat, cells within the lining of the stomach pump acid to liquefy your sumptuous dinner, from mash potatoes to a slab of steak. Problem occurs when these cells produce large amount of acid, more than your stomach needs. When this happens, you will suffer from stomach acidity. You would know if you were suffering from stomach acidity if you feel a burning sensation just above the stomach, or right below (the hollow part) your breastbone. This is the most classic sign of acidity. Other people experience acid regurgitation. This happens when you are lying horizontal on your bed. You may have a sour taste in your mouth, which resembles the taste of an orange puree that had gone stale. Acid regurgitation oftentimes results to heartburn or that pain near the heart area.
Indigestion (say: in-dih-jes-chun) is just another name for an upset stomach. (It's also called dyspepsia (say: dis-pep-shuh.) Indigestion usually happens when people eat too much, too fast, or foods that don't "agree" with them. It's fair to say that big cheese steak sandwich didn't agree with Brandon! Brandon had a little heartburn with his indigestion. It doesn't mean there was anything wrong with his heart. Heartburn is a burning feeling that travels from a person's chest up to the neck and throat. It's caused by stomach acid, which isn't a problem unless it gets out of your stomach.
Indigestion and heartburn are common problems for both kids and grownups. That's why you see all those commercials for heartburn and indigestion medicines on TV! But don't take any medicine for indigestion unless your parents or doctor says it's OK. Most of the ones that are advertised on TV are meant for adults, not kids.
Constipation means different things to different people. For many people, it simply means infrequent stools. For others, however, constipation means hard stools, difficulty passing stools (straining), or a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement. The cause of each of these types of constipation probably is different, and the approach to each should be tailored to the specific type of constipation.